Apple 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro (2021) full review
As we unbox the 14in MacBook Pro it is a slightly more angular computer that meets us. Think Powerbook Titanium, but not quite. It's still a sleek computer and it weighs only 210 grams more than the 13in MacBook Pro. In fact, it's only a few inches larger than the MacBook Air.
The bottom has the words "MacBook Pro" engraved and the sides are decorated with ports including an SD card reader, HDMI port and MagSafe connector. The SD card reader for photographers, the HMDI port so that users can plug in additional external displays and MagSafe for fast charging (among other things).
The screen is a Liquid Retina XDR screen with a resolution of 3,024 × 1,964 pixels. It is a bright one: up to 1,000 cd/m² continuous brightness across the entire screen that can be topped to 1,600 cd/m² locally. What is immediately noticeable is the adaptive Pro Motion technology, which can go up to 120Hz. Scrolling through web pages is like scrolling on the similarly equipped iPad Pro. It flows smoothly and smoothly. The frequency at which the screen refreshes is done automatically to suit what you are viewing, but you can adjust this in settings.
And then it has the notch with a camera… We have a hard time believing that Apple added it for aesthetic reasons. There are already video clips showing users encountering problems with programs that do not work properly due to the notch. But this type of problem will disappear as developers update their programs, and the truth is, after a short while of use, you do not even think about it.
Interested in the larger model? Read our review of the 16in MacBook Pro M1 Max.
The keyboard is good, with proper stroke and nice sound to the buttons. The function keys are now as large as the rest of the keys. The fingerprint reader, which previously looked like it was designed by an intern, now also lives in a full-size button. Functionally, it matters less, but it lifts aesthetically.
The trackpad is really large and works just as well as you expect the trackpad to do.
Apple did a great job of improving the sound. Six speakers deliver really good sound for a laptop. They support "spatial" sound when playing music and Dolby Atmos when watching movies. It's more than a decent sound experience - surprisingly good for a computer - but it still sounds like a computer.
Apple's own SoC (System on a Chip) attracted with all the right attention when the M1 was launched in November 2020. A high-performance and at the same time energy-efficient circuit that gave MacBook Air, 13in MacBook Pro and Mac mini better performance and longer battery life (or lower power consumption for the Mac mini). The 14in MacBook Pro we are testing contains the new M1 Pro. It is the same SoC, but it's been ramped up significantly. And it's fast. So fast.
In our Geekbench tests above you can see the 14in MacBook Pro were far ahead of the 20219 16in MacBook Pro.
In the Cinebench tests the 14in MacBook Pro left the M1 Macs for dust.
We also ran various other tests. For some games the 14in MacBook Pro beat the older 16in model, but in others it didn't
And in our Geekbench graphics tests, we saw the 14in MacBook Pro soar ahead of the older 16in MacBook Pro.
We compared it with an M1 MacBook Air. We started by converting a movie clip with 8k resolution to 1080p in Handbrake. Our M1 MacBook Air clocked in at 13 minutes and 55 seconds. Which is not bad for an ultra-portable laptop. The MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro completely outclassed the MacBook Air though: it took six minutes to do the same task.
In Final Cut Pro the result became even clearer. An 8k clip was exported with the "Apple Devices 1080p" setting selected. It took the 14in MacBook Pro 57 seconds, while the MacBook Air with M1 needed two minutes and 10 seconds for the same task.
Now maybe you think that a minute here or there does not matter but we want to point out that the clip we used was two minutes long. If you sit and work with longer films, the difference will be significant.
We also reviewed battery life and we can confirm that when Apple says that this is a computer that does not keep you chained to the desktop they do not exaggerate. In this case a powerful Mac comes with extremely low power consumption.
When we test the read and write speeds on the hard drive, we were just as amazed. The write speed according to Blackmagic is 4,334.6 MB/s and the read speed 5,287.2 MB/s. Compare this with the M1 MacBook Air and you can expect 1,314.8 MB/s and 2,822.4 MB/s respectively. Note that the MacBook Air is not a slow computer - it's an excellent option. But the 14in MacBook Pro is seriously good.
That's not to say that hard work doesn't push the 14in MacBook Pro - the fans did start up on the MacBook Pro during the Handbrake test, for example, but the sound was not disturbing.
Is there anything negative to say about the computer? No not really. If you are an everyday user, you may think it is expensive, but if you are a professional photographer, music creator, filmmaker or whatever it may be, then you get a lot of computer and performance for the money. Apple's new SoC M1 Pro is simply terribly fast. And then there is the M1 Max…